By Montpelier Mayor Anne Watson
On Saturday, June 13, over 200 Vermonters came together in an act of solidarity and inclusiveness to paint “Black Lives Matter” on State Street in front of our State Capitol. This installation was done with the expressed permission and support of both the State of Vermont and the City of Montpelier. Within 24 hours of its installation, this potent symbol of unity was anonymously vandalized and defaced with graffiti.
As mayor, I condemn the acts of vandalism and destruction that a cowardly few would seek to inflict on us. To those individuals who would seek to deface these public installations, I implore you to consider what position would require such violence and destruction. I invite you to set these prejudices of the past aside and to reach out to your neighbors and to know the history and facts behind this moment.
I want to thank the Montpelier Fire Department, the Department of Public Works, the State’s Buildings and General Services employees, and members of the public for their quick clean-up, which has minimized the damage and prevented the oil and other substances from entering our storm drains. I want to thank the Montpelier Police Department for investigating this incident and for taking quick action to ensure that the suspect is brought to justice. The professional work of each department is a credit to our city and a benefit to us all.
The work that we are undertaking, by focusing our attention on racism, has begun to plumb the depths of our national wound. We cannot expect to clean and heal if we are unwilling to see the extent of the trauma that racism has caused in our country. The defacing of the mural shows that we here in Washington County are not unaffected by racism. We are not immune.
Today, our city, our state, and our nation continue the hard work of reckoning with our long-held and deeply entrenched policies that have through intent or function caused certain of our citizens to suffer disparate treatment and impact because of their skin color, background, or creed. Let us commit from this moment to having the hard conversations with our family, friends, and co-workers about racism in all its insidious forms and to contemplate how our systems can work better for all of its citizens.
It took less than one day before someone, using the shadows of night, sought to void the voices of our community. There is no doubt that this action, meant to hurt the BLM movement, will only strengthen the resolve of those who work for justice and equity in our community. Instead of casting doubt, this act proves that taking a stand for the people of color in our community continues to be relevant and necessary.